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Devil's Dictionary: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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I is the first letter of the alphabet, the first word of the language, the first thought of the mind, the first object of affection. In grammar it is a pronoun of the first person and singular number. Its plural is said to be We, but how there can be more than one myself is doubtless clearer to the grammarians than it is to the author of this incomparable dictionary. Conception of two myselves is difficult, but fine. The frank yet graceful use of "I" distinguishes a good writer from a bad; the latter carries it with the manner of a thief trying to cloak his loot.

ICHOR, n. A fluid that serves the gods and goddesses in place of blood.

Fair Venus, speared by Diomed,
Restrained the raging chief and said:
"Behold, rash mortal, whom you've bled –
Your soul's stained white with ichorshed!"

Mary Doke

ICONOCLAST, n. A breaker of idols, the worshipers whereof are imperfectly gratified by the performance, and most strenuously protest that he unbuildeth but doth not reŽdify, that he pulleth down but pileth not up. For the poor things would have other idols in place of those he thwacketh upon the mazzard and dispelleth. But the iconoclast saith: "Ye shall have none at all, for ye need them not; and if the rebuilder fooleth round hereabout, behold I will depress the head of him and sit thereon till he squawk it."

IDIOT, n. A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling. The Idiot's activity is not confined to any special field of thought or action, but "pervades and regulates the whole." He has the last word in everything; his decision is unappealable. He sets the fashions and opinion of taste, dictates the limitations of speech and circumscribes conduct with a dead-line.

IDLENESS, n. A model farm where the devil experiments with seeds of new sins and promotes the growth of staple vices.

IGNORAMUS, n. A person unacquainted with certain kinds of knowledge familiar to yourself, and having certain other kinds that you know nothing about.

Dumble was an ignoramus,
Mumble was for learning famous.
Mumble said one day to Dumble:
"Ignorance should be more humble.
Not a spark have you of knowledge
That was got in any college."
Dumble said to Mumble: "Truly
You're self-satisfied unduly.
Of things in college I'm denied
A knowledge – you of all beside."

Borelli

ILLUMINATI, n. A sect of Spanish heretics of the latter part of the sixteenth century; so called because they were light weights – cunctationes illuminati.

ILLUSTRIOUS, adj. Suitably placed for the shafts of malice, envy and detraction.

IMAGINATION, n. A warehouse of facts, with poet and liar in joint ownership.

IMBECILITY, n. A kind of divine inspiration, or sacred fire affecting censorious critics of this dictionary.

IMMIGRANT, n. An unenlightened person who thinks one country better than another.

IMMODEST, adj. Having a strong sense of one's own merit, coupled with a feeble conception of worth in others.

There was once a man in Ispahan
Ever and ever so long ago,
And he had a head, the phrenologists said,
That fitted him for a show.

For his modesty's bump was so large a lump
(Nature, they said, had taken a freak)
That its summit stood far above the wood
Of his hair, like a mountain peak.

So modest a man in all Ispahan,
Over and over again they swore –
So humble and meek, you would vainly seek;
None ever was found before.

Meantime the hump of that awful bump
Into the heavens contrived to get
To so great a height that they called the wight
The man with the minaret.

There wasn't a man in all Ispahan
Prouder, or louder in praise of his chump:
With a tireless tongue and a brazen lung
He bragged of that beautiful bump

Till the Shah in a rage sent a trusty page
Bearing a sack and a bow-string too,
And that gentle child explained as he smiled:
"A little present for you."

The saddest man in all Ispahan,
Sniffed at the gift, yet accepted the same.
"If I'd lived," said he, "my humility
Had given me deathless fame!"

Sukker Uffro

IMMORAL, adj. Inexpedient. Whatever in the long run and with regard to the greater number of instances men find to be generally inexpedient comes to be considered wrong, wicked, immoral. If man's notions of right and wrong have any other basis than this of expediency; if they originated, or could have originated, in any other way; if actions have in themselves a moral character apart from, and nowise dependent on, their consequences – then all philosophy is a lie and reason a disorder of the mind.

IMMORTALITY, n.

A toy which people cry for,
And on their knees apply for,
Dispute, contend and lie for,
And if allowed
Would be right proud
Eternally to die for.

G. J.

IMPALE, v. t. In popular usage to pierce with any weapon which remains fixed in the wound. This, however, is inaccurate; to impale is, properly, to put to death by thrusting an upright sharp stake into the body, the victim being left in a sitting position. This was a common mode of punishment among many of the nations of antiquity, and is still in high favor in China and other parts of Asia. Down to the beginning of the fifteenth century it was widely employed in "churching" heretics and schismatics. Wolecraft calls it the "stoole of repentynge," and among the common people it was jocularly known as "riding the one legged horse." Ludwig Salzmann informs us that in Thibet impalement is considered the most appropriate punishment for crimes against religion; and although in China it is sometimes awarded for secular offences, it is most frequently adjudged in cases of sacrilege. To the person in actual experience of impalement it must be a matter of minor importance by what kind of civil or religious dissent he was made acquainted with its discomforts; but doubtless he would feel a certain satisfaction if able to contemplate himself in the character of a weather-cock on the spire of the True Church.


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The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, online at Fun-With-Words.com.

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There are two versions of this book available. First, there is The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, as originally published in 1911. This is identical to the online version on the Fun-With-Words.com website, with almost 1,000 entries.

The second, which we recommend highly, is The Unabridged Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, which has about 1,600 citations.

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